David Tran has launched an Ajax driven route finder widget for London tubes, with Rails driving the backend.  And it works pretty much as it says on the tin too!

I’ve got a RSS rader set up for “London”, so found this via a post on Ajaxian.

I really do like this London tube route finder – it’s a great use of Ajax to make the experience simple and easy, and if it’s a demonstration of intent or ability then great, but that said I’m not sure I really get it beyond that…

To start with it looks like it needs a bit of spit and polish – the user interface is utilitarian at best, and could probably do with some user interface re-jigging.

My other concern is that it doesn’t really solve any problems for me – when I’ve got my tube map sitting on my desk next to me, I’m not going to fire up a browser when I can just open the map and in a glance find my route.

This is something that I talk to people about time and again, especially to practitioners – Web 2.0 is not about how you do something (the technology), but about how much easier you make the process (using the technology in a clever, unobtrusive way) for the user.

So in this case, I’m sure there are people that will use their browsers to do route finding, and in that case it’s awesome. But for me it’s not something I’m going to return back to unless either the hook changes or it is at least more visually appealing.

For starters, the hook could be that when I click on the Google Map to see a station, I also get a bunch of interesting places thereabouts that are useful to me – meeting places, restaurants, specific shops, entertainment etc – but then if I know how to use Google Maps properly, I can also get that info straight from Google Maps, and it’s more comprehensive to boot. 

So we return to the hook in this instance, but also with Web 2.0 in general – what is it about your offering, that people will find it compelling enough to return?

As an aside: anyone got any suggestions / comments on usefulness or what a suitable hook could be for the route finder?